Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Book - 2011
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Heartbreaking and funny: the true story behind Jeanette's bestselling and most beloved novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit .

In 1985, at twenty-five, Jeanette published Oranges , the story of a girl adopted by Pentecostal parents, supposed to grow up to be a missionary. Instead, she falls in love with a woman. Disaster.

Oranges became an international bestseller, inspired an award-winning BBC adaptation, and was semi-autobiographical. Mrs. Winterson, a thwarted giantess, loomed over the novel and the author's life: when Jeanette left home at sixteen because she was in love with a woman, Mrs. Winterson asked her: Why be happy when you could be normal? This is Jeanette's story--acute, fierce, celebratory--of a life's work to find happiness: a search for belonging, love, identity, a home.

About a young girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night, and a mother waiting for Armageddon with two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the duster drawer; about growing up in a northern industrial town; about the Universe as a Cosmic Dustbin. She thought she had written over the painful past until it returned to haunt her and sent her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also about other people's stories, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life raft that supports us when we are sinking.
Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, c2011
ISBN: 9780307401243
Branch Call Number: 823 W736w
Characteristics: 230 p. ; 22 cm


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Dec 03, 2020

Her creepy, abusive, unhappy childhood, in detail, her religious nutcase of a mother, in detail, the title of the book is a quote of hers. It brought up a few sad memories of my own, I'm not going to finish it. I really enjoy her novels, though.

Mar 14, 2019

Five stars with a little bit of sag when she talks about her other books. But, here is a quote from the book that fed my writerly soul: "I began to realize that I had company. Writers are often exiles, outsiders, runaways and castaways. These writers were my friends. Every book was a message in a bottle. Open it." She is so right about the books, like this one, that really are messages in a bottle. Glad I opened it.

Dec 03, 2018

Loved it. Great read.

Sep 25, 2018

I know I'm a hater for rating this 2 stars without actually having finished it. But she kept mentioning the first book she wrote and how that was so amazing, I definitely felt like I was doing it wrong reading this before the other one. So naturally I completely gave up on this and added her first book to my For Later shelf.

Mar 28, 2018

A perfect example of how diverse people's reading tastes can be. This book has been highly praised by so many, but left me unmoved in any way. I can't even say why. There was merit in the story and moments of humour but it wasn't enough to engage me. It may be worth your time to try it based on the mostly wonderful feedback it has got, especially if you like this type of memoir, but It just fell totally flat for me.

Jun 08, 2017

I have never read Jeanette Winterson's books before. I had "Sexing the cherry" on my "For Later" book reading list, but I did not know that Ms. Winterson was the author of that book. No, the reason I decided to read this book was the title. I have had depression since I was a teenager, and have had (much more mild than Ms. Winterson's) issues with my own mother. The title pulled me in, and then so did her writing.

I find a lot of myself in this book, and for that reason I would never recommend this book to anyone, unless I found a lot of myself in them. I could see why people might not like this book, especially how it jumps around in time. However, the poetic idea that time in our memories is not as linear as we like to think, and that when you're writing a story about your life, things can jump around quite violently made me appreciate how she went from one place to another.

I give this book 4 1/2 stars (messed up on my own rating!. I subtracted 1/2 star because at times I had a hard time with the way the narrative bounced around, but like I said, I also appreciated it in a way. Sometimes you get lost and wander when you are trying to get deep down into the core of yourself. Sometimes going round and round and bouncing around is the only way to finally catch those fearful emotions that you might not even really want to catch in the first place.

I glimpsed a lot of my own struggles in her story, one that is very different from my own. I felt her despair, and her anger, and her quite resignation to her life, as well as her pain. Especially her pain. I love her for that. In the "I appreciate that you are alive and were able to write this book and that I was alive to read it". Definitely a book for someone who may feel a little like an outsider, like they don't belong, like they have some learning to do, someone who feels like a work in progress.

This book was like a 3 year long self-discovery condensed into a 300 page book. Intense, moving, heartbreaking and healing.

Jun 01, 2016

I thought I knew about Jeanette Winterson before I read this book. I had read two of her other books before--The Gap in Time, and Written on the Body. I knew that she was adopted in Manchester by a strict, Pentecostal couple, and I knew that she was a lesbian.

But, oh, how much I didn't know.

Winterson's upbringing was so starkly Dickensian...I could never have imagined that 1960s Manchester was so similar to 1860s London. Cold and impoverished.

Look no further for a defense of public libraries. Winterson's current life and career was only possible because of her expeditions to the local library for her mother's oddly beloved murder mystery books, where she stumbled into English Prose Literature A-Z. God bless her bravery and resilience.

Also, this is one of the most humbly honest accounts of an adoption reunification story I've ever encountered. Winterson is completely right that all other adoption stories are too preoccupied with a happy ending--expecting to fall in love right away with the found birth parent. I loved that we didn't get that fairy-tale happy ending here.

Overall, this book is beautiful and illuminating. If you haven't read Winterson's fiction, read this before you do, and you'll get a whole new perspective on things.

Feb 03, 2016

If I could award this book more than 5 stars I would do so!
At times humorous and ironic, at times extremely moving, especially in the final chapters. Insightful, lyrical, completely engaging, right from the very first sentence. It's rare to encounter a writer who is willing to bare her soul to this degree -- and yet she is never maudlin, weepy or self-indulgent in doing so.
One of the best things I've read in the past several years.

BPLpicks May 15, 2015

A truly beautiful memoir, often painful and raw but always honest and thought provoking. It is also a tribute to the power of books and reading and how literature can sustain the human spirit.

Nov 28, 2014

Memoir about her growing up with adoptive parents who were extremely religious. She was fierce, independent, gay teen with artistic sensibility and had huge conflicts with her blue collar mother. Still she is not disowning her mother, having adopted a view that she did the best she could.

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Jun 02, 2016

"There are markings here, raised like welts. Read them. Read the hurt. Rewrite them. Rewrite the hurt."

May 30, 2012

When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant or any of the strange and stupid things said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language—and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers—a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place. (40)

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